The management of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in patients with obesity presents numerous challenges. Obesity has a negative effect on almost all of the major CVD risk factors, and adversely influences cardiovascular structure and function. Patients who are overweight or obese have a higher incidence of almost all CVDs compared with patients who are of normal weight. However, those who are overweight or obese seem to have a better short-term and medium-term prognosis after major CVD events and interventional procedures or cardiac surgeries than leaner patients, a phenomenon termed the 'obesity paradox'. In considering the mechanisms underlying this paradox, we review evidence of the deleterious consequences of obesity in patients with coronary heart disease, and the limited data on the benefits of weight loss in patients with CVD. Additional studies are needed on the efficacy of purposeful weight loss on cardiovascular outcomes to determine the ideal body composition for patients with CVD.